Rahul Khanna, a self-confessed aviation geek, shares with Riaan Jacob George his passion for the fine art of elegant travel and his penchant for effortless fashion
One look at Rahul Khanna’s stylish Instagram or Snapchat feed and you realise just how much of a bon vivant he is – arresting ocean views from his south Mumbai apartment, slow-mo treadmill selfies, food pics, accessories and, of course, his fashionable acquisitions. What piques my fancy, however, is his decidedly luxurious approach to travel. Monogrammed luggage, in-flight Champagne, gorgeous premium cabins and exotic destinations. I ask the actor if lugging around monogrammed Louis Vuitton trunks is his idea of travelling light. “It is quite strange,” he says, “I am a minimalist, but somehow, I cannot travel light. I like to take lots of options and I always feel I may need something. I am addicted to the Muji packing cubes, which help me organise my bags. I usually take slightly more than what I need.” As for the trunks, there’s an interesting story there. “I remember attending an estate sale for Jamshed Bhabha, when he died, and they were auctioning off all his belongings at his Malabar Hill residence. It felt like I had stepped into The Great Gatsby, because it was all laid out so well. Among his personal effects, I found these steamer trunks, all of which had his initials on them. That really inspired me to get myself some monogrammed luggage for my own travels,” he says.
There is a certain old-school appeal to the actor’s approach to travel, in that he is always nattily dressed for a flight and takes the trouble to sport gorgeous luggage. “I am indeed old-school. I love the time when people used to travel on cruise liners and old airplanes. They were all so elegant. I remember my parents going off to the airport, they were so stylish, as there were strict dress codes back then. Air India, for that matter, boasted the most elegantly dressed clientele. Gentlemen in Air India’s business-class cabins always wore a jacket, while ladies carried a vanity case. You don’t see those vanity cases any more,” he says.
Khanna, whose Twitter profile aptly reads “boutique Bollywood actor”, speaks of two fellow passengers whose style influenced him greatly. “I remember travelling next to Feroz Khan on a flight to Dubai once. He was impeccably dressed in a blazer, a scarf, monogrammed shoes and matching luggage. Then I once travelled next to Tom Ford. I saw the way he was dressed and groomed, and I thought to myself that it is such a respectful thing to do for your fellow passengers. It is a nice way of travelling. Flying is one of the most public things you can do and it’s nice to be well presented.” If you ever spot the dapper actor at an international airport, you will see him in his “flight staples” – a pair of dark jeans, a tailored shirt and a lightweight jacket.
While on the subject of travel, the actor, who joined the ranks of Indian actors bridging the Hollywood gap with his much-lauded appearance in the show The Americans, admits that he is passionate about discovering new, offbeat destinations. “I am more nature-oriented. But that’s also because my work requires me to be so.” Khanna is no easy traveller. He plans his journeys out to the last detail and admits he is controlling in that respect. “While I do have someone who plans my travel, I end up doing it myself. I know exactly which seat, on which aircraft, on which airline. And if I don’t get that seat, I actually have second, third and fourth options.” That said, is Rahul Khanna an aisle-seat guy or a window-seat guy? “Window, of course!” he chuckles. Once he’s at a destination, Khanna prefers to stay at off-the-radar hotels, places that people don’t really know about – “hidden gems that don’t advertise”, as he puts it.
Is he partial to the opulent luxury of a big-city hotel or the understated barefoot luxury at an offbeat address? “I do love slick and modern hotels with amenities and technology. But to me, luxury could also mean complete isolation. Access to nature is a huge luxury. While on the subject of modern city hotels, I love using technology. I was at the Four Seasons New York recently and their new mobile app is amazing. I used it for everything, even to order room service. In a city, I love to walk, to just get lost in the streets. That’s a great way to discover restaurants and museums. I rely on locals to guide me as well,” he says.
Among his most interesting recent projects was one that took him to Dufftown in Scotland, the home of the legendary single malt Glenfiddich, to host a TV show, The Mavericks. “I had never been to Scotland before, so it was a superb experience. I must confess that I was learning about whisky on this trip. I loved how they’d kept their whisky heritage alive and raised it to an art form. And, of course, the culture around the Scottish highlands is incredible,” he says.